BCS Poll 2013: Breaking Down the First Poll's Top 25 Teams

Jeff Bell@@JrayBellCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2013

BCS Poll 2013: Breaking Down the First Poll's Top 25 Teams

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    The first official BCS rankings have been released, and my, what an interesting picture we have in the wake of yesterday's upsets!

    The trio of Alabama, Florida State and Oregon at the top of the rankings comes as little surprise, but suddenly teams like Missouri and Baylor find themselves in the thick of the title race.

    What do the rankings mean with still a month-and-a-half left of college football?

    Let's break it all down and take a look at the Top 25 teams in the initial BCS rankings.


    All stats via ESPN. AP and Coaches polls can be found here.

25) Oregon State Beavers

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    After a season-opening loss to Eastern Washington, it was easy to write off Oregon State completely.

    But quarterback Sean Mannion and wide receiver Brandin Cooks refused to let the team fade away, and the Beavers have since responded with six straight victories.

    It hasn't been enough to vault this team back into the Top 25 of the AP or Coaches poll, but that could change soon with upcoming games against Stanford, USC and Arizona State. The Beavers close out the season against Washington and Oregon.

    Right now, this is a team you don't want to see on the schedule. Mannion has nearly 3,000 yards passing and 29 touchdowns, while Cooks has caught 76 passes for 1,176 yards and 12 scores. Considering the team has played just seven games and runs a pro-style offense, those numbers are mind-blowing.

    A loss to Stanford would likely drop the Beavers back a bit, but this looks like a team that will sneak back into the final BCS rankings, even if it drops out next week.

24) Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    On the surface, the 5-1 Cornhuskers appear to be as solid as any team in the Big Ten conference.

    The offense can run the ball, and the defense, while shaky at times, is still very talented and has allowed just over 22 points per game.

    Given the state of the Big Ten, winning the conference is a realistic goal. The two biggest games remaining on the schedule are Michigan and Michigan State, and the results of those contests will go a long way toward determining who represents the Legends Division in the conference title game.

    If the Cornhuskers have used the bye week to get healthy and regroup, they should remain a contender throughout the rest of the season.

    Coach Bo Pelini's team is No. 25 in the AP and No. 21 in the Coaches Poll.

23) UCF Knights

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    A 28-25 loss to South Carolina is all that stands between UCF and what would be a pretty impressive record.

    On Friday, the Knights handed Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater their first loss of the 2013 season, coming back from a 28-7 deficit to pull out the 38-35 victory.

    Quarterback Blake Bortles is playing great, and the defense did just enough to slow down the Cardinals' lethal passing attack. A Nov. 21 matchup with Rutgers will be tricky, but if George O'Leary's team can traverse a relatively weak AAC, it will find itself in a BCS bowl game.

    The Knights are 21st in the AP Poll and 25th in the Coaches Poll.

22) Michigan Wolverines

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    The Michigan Wolverines have had a more topsy-turvy season than their 6-1 record might indicate.

    After a solid first couple of weeks which saw wins over Central Michigan and Notre Dame, the Wolverines struggled mightily in victories over Akron and UConn.

    A 42-13 victory over Minnesota seemed to restore order, until the Wolverines suffered a heartbreaking loss at Penn State in quadruple overtime.

    Brady Hoke's team bounced back on Saturday with an explosive offensive performance in a 63-47 victory over Indiana, and the team sits at No. 24 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the Coaches poll.

    While the annual rivalry game with Ohio State will receiver plenty of hype, the game against Michigan State may define the 2013 season and give this team a chance to make it to the conference championship.



21) South Carolina Gamecocks

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    For a while, it seemed as if South Carolina would be the team to emerge from the mess in the SEC East.

    At least until the Gamecocks traveled to Tennessee and left with a 23-21 loss, their second of the season.

    With two losses to its name, it's going to be difficult for South Carolina to climb back into the race for the SEC East title, but a win next Saturday at Missouri would help.

    Steve Spurrier's team fell to No. 20 in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

20) Louisville Cardinals

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    The Louisville Cardinals took a major tumble in the rankings following Friday evening's 38-35 loss to Central Florida.

    To be fair, the Knights are a quality team that gave South Carolina all it could handle, but because Louisville doesn't have many quality teams left on the schedule, it isn't likely to climb very high in the rankings.

    Teddy Bridgewater has had a fantastic season thus far which should continue into the final month-and-a-half. Ultimately, the loss may help the Cardinals regroup with hopes of a BCS bowl berth still very much alive.

    Charlie Strong's team is ranked 18th in the AP Poll but fell to 16th in the Coaches Poll.


19) Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    If not for a puzzling loss at West Virginia, Oklahoma State may be clamoring for a spot in the top five at this point in the season.

    The loss to the Mountaineers, however, took the Cowboys on a downward slide in the polls, and victories over Kansas State and TCU have done nothing to turn things around.

    Games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor still remain, however, and Mike Gundy's team has an excellent chance to leap back into the conference title picture with a 5-1 record on the season.

    Next Saturday's matchup with Iowa State won't teach us much, but a visit to Lubbock to face the Red Raiders the following weekend will likely define the season.

    The Cowboys are No. 19 in the AP and No. 13 in the Coaches Poll.

18) Northern Illinois Huskies

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    Jordan Lynch and the Northern Illinois Huskies seem poised to make a return trip to the BCS.

    The team is 7-0 and has a quality win over an improving Iowa team, as well as a dominating victory over Purdue on the road.

    Lynch will no doubt implore his team to take things one game at a time, but a berth in the conference title game is likely. A home contest with Ball State could be tricky, but the rest of the schedule should be manageable for the Huskies, who are still outside the Top 20 in both the AP and Coaches polls.

    Northern Illinois plays host to Eastern Illinois next Saturday.

17) Fresno State Bulldogs

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    The dream of an undefeated season is alive and well following Fresno State's 38-14 victory over UNLV on Saturday.

    Given the nature of their remaining schedule, it's difficult to project where the Bulldogs might end up in the final BCS rankings. A trip to Wyoming on Nov. 9 appears to be the only potential stumbling block.

    But regardless of where this team travels to in bowl season, it's important to remember the Bulldogs have already notched wins over Rutgers and Boise State. Derek Carr is slinging it around like a future NFL quarterback, and the team has proven it can hang with anybody.

    The Bulldogs are ranked 15th in the AP Poll and 18th in the Coaches Poll.

16) Texas A&M Aggies

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    Despite Johnny Manziel's best efforts, Texas A&M has been unable to defeat teams from the state of Alabama and enter the final month-and-a-half with a 5-2 record.

    Saturday's loss to Auburn was particularly surprising, considering the beatdown the Aggies gave the Tigers in 2012, but the defense was simply unable to come up with key stops when it mattered most.

    And Manziel, with as much magic in his back pocket as a Las Vegas performer, couldn't make things happen on a last-gasp drive.

    Home games against Vanderbilt, UTEP and Mississippi State should bring the record to 8-2 before back-to-back games against LSU and Missouri. Those final two matchups will determine where the Aggies end up in bowl season and could go a long way toward defining Manziel's legacy.

    A&M is No. 15 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the Coaches Poll.

15) Oklahoma Sooners

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    Everything was going swimmingly for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners until the Red River rivalry.

    Victories over Notre Dame and TCU were helping to build a decent resume, and it looked as if this team might be the favorite in the Big 12. Then Texas happened.

    When the Longhorns finished dusting off Oklahoma 36-20, the Sooners were left with a cloud of doubt that will be difficult to look past, at least until next Saturday, when they face Texas Tech.

    Following a contest with the Red Raiders, Stoops' team will travel to Waco to face the offensive juggernaut that is Baylor, and the two-week stretch should ultimately define the 2013 season in Norman.



14) Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Virginia Tech all but disappeared on the national radar following a loss to Alabama to open its 2013 campaign.

    Since then, all the Hokies have done is reeled off six straight wins and put themselves in prime position to contend for an ACC title.

    Likely wins over Duke and Boston College should set up a huge game against Miami, with the winner all but guaranteed a spot in the conference championship.

    Logan Thomas is playing much better football than he was back in September, and the defense is nasty, allowing just 15 points per game.

    The Hokies have climbed into the Top 20 of every major poll.

13) LSU Tigers

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    LSU fell victim to a Saturday filled with upsets, losing 27-24 at Ole Miss.

    The surprising defeat comes on the heels of a dominant defensive performance against Florida in which the Tigers surrendered just six points.

    Les Miles and company now get what will essentially be back-to-back bye weeks, with a game against Furman followed by an off-date. After that, however, the Tigers will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on top-ranked Alabama before hosting Texas A&M and Arkansas to round out the season.

    With two losses in-conference, it's going to be tough for LSU to make some noise in the SEC West, but a win over Alabama could put this team in position for an at-large BCS berth.

    The Tigers are 13th in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

12) UCLA Bruins

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    After tearing through the first half of the season unscathed, the UCLA Bruins hit a wall of defense on Saturday and fell to Stanford, 24-10.

    As a pick-me-up, they get the unenviable task of taking on Oregon in Eugene. As it stands, the Bruins are in a great position to win the Pac-12 South, as both they and Arizona State have just one loss, each losing to the Cardinal.

    While a victory against the Ducks would be enormous for a program that appears to be on the rise, the more important contest will come in late November against the Sun Devils. The winner of that one, in all likelihood, will represent the South Division in the conference championship.

    Following Saturday's loss, UCLA remained in the Top 12 of both the AP and Coaches Poll.

11) Auburn Tigers

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    Like Alabama, Auburn went into Aggieland and left with an impressive victory over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.

    The win solidified what many were starting to think following a win over Ole Miss on October 5: This team is for real.

    All of a sudden, it's not crazy to think about Auburn arriving at the Iron Bowl with just the lone loss to LSU on its resume. Quarterback Nick Marshall is playing extremely well and gives the offense a running threat not seen since Cam Newton.

    The defense has also improved from a woeful 2012 campaign, and the Gus Malzahn era is certainly off to a roaring start.

10) Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    In his first season as head coach, Kliff Kingsbury has Texas Tech in contention for a Big 12 title.

    The Red Raiders are 7-0 on the season but have yet to look dominant. None of that will matter if they can beat Oklahoma on the road next Saturday.

    A win would take Texas Tech out of the group of teams we think are good and put them into the top tier of programs positioning themselves for a shot at the national title.

    The Red Raiders have moved into the Top 10 in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

9) Clemson Tigers

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    It's difficult to say how Saturday's 51-14 loss to Florida State will affect this team, but it's officially look-yourself-in-the-mirror time for Clemson if the Tigers hope to rebound from that disappointing effort.

    Games against Maryland, Virginia, Georgia Tech and The Citadel should give Dabo Swinney's squad a chance to regroup and start playing good football again. If they can get through that stretch, a final game against South Carolina will give them a chance to return to the nation's elite.

    It will require two losses by Florida State to get back into the ACC title picture, so that dream is all but washed away. Reaching a BCS bowl, however, is still very possible.

    Clemson fell to ninth in the AP Poll and 10th in the Coaches Poll.

8) Baylor Bears

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    When Baylor scored just 35 points in a win over Kansas State, it became the norm to question the offense and wonder if the Bears were ready for big-time football.

    But fear not, college football fans, because quarterback Bryce Petty and company restored order in a 71-7 victory over Iowa State.

    The competition hasn't been great, but what the Bears are doing on offense is incredible. That should continue next week at Kansas, which would bring the overall record to 7-0.

    Following a likely win over the Jayhawks, however, is a five-game stretch that will make or break this team. The Bears will play host to Oklahoma and Texas Tech, travel to Oklahoma State and TCU and then finally welcome the Texas Longhorns to Waco.

    Art Briles' team is No. 6 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the Coaches.

7) Miami Hurricanes

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    It hasn't always looked good, but Miami finally appears to have a team ready to seriously compete for an ACC title.

    Unfortunately, looks matter in the national picture, and a close victory over North Carolina only brought doubt as to whether the Hurricanes were ready for a team like Florida State, despite their undefeated record.

    A date with Wake Forest next Saturday should serve as a tune-up for the monster matchup on Nov. 2 with the Seminoles. If Miami hopes to keep things close, it must take care of the ball and hope for a career game from quarterback Stephen Morris.

    The Hurricanes may still be a shell of their early '00s selves, but they are a solid team and could really make some noise with big tests late in the season.


6) Stanford Cardinal

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    The Stanford Cardinal are 6-1 in 2013 following a 24-10 victory over UCLA on Saturday.

    The victory seemed to erase the doubt that had crept into the minds of voters following the Cardinal's loss to Utah the week before. Against the Bruins, the defense dominated throughout the game, and the offense played "old man" football, which was as effective and boring as ever.

    For David Shaw's team, however, it's not about being watchable, but about playing good defense and controlling the clocktwo things that will be of the utmost importance in the next two games against Oregon State and Oregon.

    If the Cardinal take care of the Ducks, they'll be in a great position to win the Pac-12 North for the second year in a row. Jumping back into the national title picture won't be impossible, but it's going to take several major upsets.

    Stanford is eighth in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

5) Missouri Tigers

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    When Missouri quarterback James Franklin went down with an injury, it seemed natural to write off the Tigers completely. How could they rebound after losing their best player?

    All they did was come out on Saturday and stomp on Florida 36-17. Now, the Tigers have jumped into the national title picture and have a manageable slate of games left on the schedule.

    South Carolina comes calling next Saturday, but Texas A&M is the only other ranked team left for the Tigers. It will be interesting to see if Missouri can continue to ride the wave of momentum into the SEC championship game. They currently have a two-game lead in the East Division and are sporting a shiny 7-0 record.

    The Tigers have also jumped up to No. 5 in the AP poll and No. 7 in the Coaches Poll.

4) Ohio State Buckeyes

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes are undefeated and rolling along quite nicely in 2013.

    However, through no fault of their own, making it to Pasadena will be tough unless teams around them stumble. The reality is that the Buckeyes haven't dominated opponents like Alabama, Florida State and Oregon, and they play in a weak conference.

    Fair or not, those factors play into the rankings, which is why a program rich with tradition and talent sits at No. 4 despite boasting a perfect record. Ohio State figures to go untested until the regular-season finale at Michigan.

    Urban Meyer's team is fourth in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

3) Oregon Ducks

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    We now arrive at the top three, where a trio of teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.

    In the No. 3 spot is the Oregon Ducks, who haven't played very many tough teams but have dominated everybody on the schedule. On Saturday, Washington State provided a bit of a scare before Oregon pulled away and won by 24 points.

    In Seattle the week before, the Ducks were clinging to a seven point lead entering the fourth quarter before two touchdown passes by Marcus Mariota sealed the victory.

    The next two games will define the season for Oregon, as it plays host to UCLA before traveling to face Stanford. Two wins followed by a victory in the Pac-12 championship game would likely put the Ducks in the national championship game.

    We think this is a very good team, but we'll know for sure in a couple weeks. Oregon is 2nd in both the AP and Coaches poll.

2) Florida State Seminoles

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    Before Florida State's game against Clemson, there were plenty of questions surrounding the team.

    Is Jameis Winston really ready for the spotlight? Can the defense keep up with an explosive offense? Is Florida State truly one of the nation's elite?

    Today, those answers are yes, yes, and wow, yes.

    What the Seminoles did against Clemson is one of the most impressive performances you're ever going to see, and the team appears poised to make a serious run at the national title. Dates with Miami and Florida appear to be the only potential tripping points, but it's difficult to see anybody seriously challenging this team before season's end.

    Whether running through the ACC undefeated will be enough to make it to Pasadena remains to be seen, and there's still the issue of staying focused each week. But the Seminoles have proven themselves to the nation.

    Florida State moved up to No. 3 in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide

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    The preseason favorite to win the national title remains in the top spot after going undefeated through its first seven games of the 2013 season.

    Alabama, which has impressive wins over Virginia Tech, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, is in perfect position to win the SEC West and make it to the conference championship game.

    The Crimson Tide have a very balanced offense, with T.J. Yeldon in the backfield and AJ McCarron slinging it around to a bevy of talented receivers.

    LSU has the best chance to knock off Alabama, which also sits in the top spot in both the AP and Coaches Polls. The two square off Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa.